05/26/09 — RPO eyes highway access concerns

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RPO eyes highway access concerns

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 26, 2009 1:46 PM

Uncontrolled development along N.C. 24 near Warsaw has created traffic problems that could have been prevented by better planning, the town's mayor told members of the Eastern Carolina Rural Planning Organization at a meeting at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Win Batten said the problems created by permitted businesses having direct access to the highway corridor are examples of how a lack of planning can lead to traffic congestion.

If the work was done today, efforts would be made to have traffic enter and exit the businesses by services roads -- something that is still being considered as a way to fix the traffic problems, Batten added.

He was responding to questions by Wayne County Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox as to what other counties are doing to protect highway rights-of-way in the state Transportation Improve-ment Plan.

"How do we address those future corridors with development going on in the county?" Cox asked. He said Wayne was lookning especially hard at preserving the I-795 South corridor.

That has been a much-discussed topic over the past few months, and this past Tuesday Wayne County Commissioners agreed to look at options, including zoning.

During last week's meeting of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, state officials said municipal and county government can protect the corridors by using their zoning and planning authority.

"The planning board looked at and is considering starting an initial study about preserving transportation corridors," Duplin County Planner Randall Tyndall said. "Unlike Wayne County, Duplin County is unzoned. We are in the stages of gathering information as to how we can do that and how we can implement that, and in the interim, all we have done is to include those corridors in our overall land use planning."

Wayne County, he said has more resources than Duplin.

"We have difficulty just because of our zoning situation," Tyndall said. "We have just been able to get to the very first level of land use planning after five years. We don't use the 'z' word in Duplin County, we use "controlled land use. We are trying to identify and to put into place those things we do have the authority to recommend to protect our interest."

Cox asked Tyndall if he knew how that would be done.

"We will trying to get a map, GIS-type map, so we can point out how critical those (corridors) are," Tyndall said. "The best thing we can do at this point is to identify what those corridors are."

Batten said towns had zoning and land use at their disposal.

Cox asked for more information about the zones.

That was when Batten said anyone who had been to the I-40 exit at N.C. 24 could see a real problem caused by everyone having direct access to N.C. 24. If the highway was being built today, there would likely be only one or two access points controlled by traffic lights, he said.

Unlike the MPO, which is federally created, RPOs are created by the state to assist the state Department of Transportation with road planning in rural areas.

Both organizations are comprised of two committees. The Technical Coordinating Committee is similar to the administrative staff of a city council or county commission. The TCC makes recommendations to the Technical Advisory Committee, which is the decision-making body of the RPO.

During the TCC session, board members agreed to recommend the DOT 2011-17 Transportation Improvement Plan for approval by the TAC. It also recommended approval of the RPO's planning work program.

Both were adopted by the TAC during its meeting.

The U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass tops the TIP list. The first section of the road between Interstate 795 and Wayne Memorial Drive is under way.

Marcus Lee, who represents the DOT on the board, said the project is on schedule and should be competed in 2011.

Another local project is the relocation of I-795 from N.C. 55 at Mount Olive to just south of U.S. 70. The TIP actually referred to the new roadway as U.S. 117.

However, county Commissioner Jack Best informed TAC members it should be called I-795 and the change was noted. It has not been funded.

In other business, Lee said that a traffic light will be installed the intersection of U.S. 13 and Hood Swamp Road.

Wayne County Planning Director Connie Price added that new overhead signs to help direct traffic towards Goldsboro from Interstates 95 and 795 would be installed.

East Carolina Council Planning Director Alex Rickard said the program of work provides guidance for the RPO staff and DOT.

The program and associated costs are: surveillance of inventory data, $18,000; long-range transportation plan, $25,500; planning work program, $4,000; TIP, $11,000; civil rights compliance and other regulatory requirements, $12,000; incidental planning and project development, $16,500; and administration and services, $22,003.